The recommended amount of sleep for healthy adults is 7-9 hours per day. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 30 percent of American adults are “sleep deprived,” meaning they sleep less than 6 hours each day—leaving them vulnerable to adverse health and safety effects.
As any athlete in training knows, skipping on sleep is not conducive to optimal athletic performance. Train as much as you want, but without adequate sleep the body is unable to absorb the training. That is because physiological adaptations occur during the recovery periods in between training bouts. Without rest and recovery, the body continues to break down rather than to rebuild.
Athletes in training should aim for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each day plus additional hours depending upon their activity level. Here are a few rules of thumb for determining how much extra sleep to include in your weekly schedule.
Rule of Thumb #1
A good general rule of thumb is to take the number of hours you train each week, move the decimal point one place to the left, and add that amount of time to your daily sleep. For example, if you train for 10 hours a week; then aim for an extra hour of sleep each day. If you normally find yourself needing 8 hours of sleep; then you would bump that up to 9 hours.
Rule of Thumb #2
This rule of thumb is more specific to running. Here, take the number of miles you run per week and aim for the same number of extra minutes of sleep per night. For example, if you run 30 miles per week in your training; then aim for an extra 30 minutes per day of sleep. If you normally find yourself needing 7½ hours of sleep per night; then you would bump that up to 8 hours.
To be sure, these are simply rules of thumb, and you will need to pinpoint your own particular needs based on individual circumstances. But they do help to underscore the key take-away point:
You will need more sleep than you are used to during heavy training periods.
At the minimum, make sure you get the recommended baseline of 7-9 hours per day; then add in extra time according to your activity level and individual needs. If you’re training 20 hours a week; then sleeping 10 hours a day is not a luxury—it’s a necessity.
Keep in mind, extra sleep need not occur only at night. Naps during the day, particularly after intense workouts, are another good way to ensure you get the rest you need.
At the very least, dedicate that extra time to rest and relaxation even if it’s not a full sleep. Your body will thank you and you will put yourself in a position to feel better both on and off the race course.